It’s been one year since Hands Held in the Snow began serializing on the internet. One year since Emi and Beatrice first laid eyes on one another and our beloved narrator asked us, was it love at first sight?
It feels like an eternity ago. That’s kind of what 2020 was generally like, though. I started writing the book over three years ago, and now it’s finally out for everyone to see, for the world to read and hopefully fall in love with just like I did writing it.
There’s been a whole lot of support for the series since it came out, enough that I’m still pretty overwhelmed about it. ATL is enough of a slow burn experience that I felt OK with how it finally became a little bit more popular as time went on. Hands Held in the Snow, though, had an active readership from the very start! That’s one of the cool things about how web fiction has grown in such a short time.
While the main site has not been particularly active, a few people each month read through the story and leave comments, either on Royal Road or Tapas, and it fills my heart with warmth every time. The Twitter account gets a lot of fun stuff on it from time to time as well. It’s enough to keep me happy, though I’m still waiting for the day the story eventually breaks out (if that lucky day ever comes).
Maybe not enough time has passed to do a thorough reflection. I’m at a loss to actually talk about the story as a whole. It’s still really fresh, like the world of Balarand still hasn’t left me.
As much as I am glad that Hands Held in the Snow is finally over, part of me doesn’t want to let it go! It was a really fun experience and I keep finding myself tinkering away at it, trying to make it perfect for everyone. I’ve been meaning to make some small maps of the continent and of Balarand itself. And I still have a few fun bonus stories to share with the world… though those will mostly be silly non-canon alternate universe tales.
Maybe that’s why I don’t feel ready to reflect on one year with Emi & Beatrice just yet; because my heart doesn’t feel like the experience is fully complete yet. Maybe that’s pretty silly of my heart to think that, but there’s only one response I can make: 仕方がないわ。
I’m glad you read this reflection, whether you are a fan of the story or someone who hasn’t tried it out just yet. (Though if you are the latter, I really recommend it! It’s good! Start from chapter 1!)
With any luck, my next romance novel will release in 2021 (after over two years of research and planning!). And I hope you will be there for it.
Thank you so much for reading Hands Held in the Snow!
It’s been a wonderful nine months posting the story and interacting with readers. I’m a bit exhausted and ready for the story to finally all be out there for people to read, but I have to admit it’s been a lovely time while it’s lasted.
But across these nine months, it sure has been a lot to take in. Even though this was my second original web serial (after ATL), it still brought many challenges and opportunities that have helped me grow quite a lot as an author. This project has grown very close to my heart, and I’m glad that you were here to experience it with me.
The History of the Handholding
I wasn’t sure if Hands Held would see much real success as a web serial. It was written originally as a traditional novel, one without all the cliffhangers and hanging plot threads to keep people coming back week after week. Would people really be invested in a romance story where the focus is not on if they will get together, but how their relationship will go? But I decided to post it anyway, because I didn’t want to wait around hoping an agent or publisher would fall in love with it first. The story was worth more than that.
Well… Whether or not the story was successful at getting people to fall in love with it isn’t up to me. I’m very hopeful that my writing and Mikayla Buan’s artwork has made a positive impact on a lot of people, but ultimately that’s up to you. If you loved the story, or liked it, or even hated it, I really want to know. If you have any thoughts at all to share about a story, please do express them whenever (and wherever)! I’d love to hear them.
While I always have plenty of fun writing stories, I had a blast with this one. Writing about two characters falling in love and having a fruitful relationship together by itself one of my favorite things about being an author, but having the opportunity to write about all those tiny parts of romance–the inconsequential dates, the cuddling, the chats about benign topics–really was as fun as it gets.
Beatrice and Emi both had equally engaging storylines for me to write, though I found it more challenging to keep up with Emi’s storyline and the many side characters she brought along with her. That girl had too many friends and family! But, obviously, my favorite parts of the story to write were when the two were together, having fun and growing together.
The MOST fun part of the story to write? Probably the entire storyline where they go to Mammoth Pass. Some of the chapters in there made me downright joyful to write.
Of course… writing the more emotional parts of the story was also a tough challenge at times. Getting through some complicated emotions and impassable walls… Sometimes my heart screamed at me to give the story a cheap wish fulfillment ending, even well into publishing the story. But it wouldn’t have worked, and ultimately I don’t think our two heroines would have been happy, anyway. They needed the endings they deserved, not just the one my heart begged me for.
But ultimately, it all went through and the story ended and now we’re here. Despite everything, the story turned out exactly like how I planned it, and I hope it has come out stronger because of that.
Now, I want to discuss the story further, but to help me do so, I’ll be answering some questions sent into me by readers and fans on Twitter and elsewhere. Time for the Q&A!
How long have you been writing Hands Held in the Snow?
The inception of the story dates back to mid-2017, just an idea for a little 6-chapter novella I wanted to write someday. I wrote the idea down, then later on a friend chanced upon it and fell in love with the idea, practically begging me to write it. And this mysterious friend was so serious that they offered me cash money if I’d write it as soon as possible.
Of course, I did!
The first draft of the story was completed on March 14th, 2018. After that, the next year and a half was spent tinkering on the story, expanding it, smoothing out the pacing, and fleshing out the side characters as much as possible.
The draft that you read now is the fifth. Usually I don’t rewrite stories THAT much, but this one required a bit more work, especially once it became a web serial.
Will this story be published on any online storefronts?
At the moment, the story will remain on its current platforms for free reading with no limitations. Could there be an ebook version someday? Eh, maybe. If the demand is strong enough, then sure.
What was the driving inspiration behind Hands Held?
I was sick of WLW fiction that centered around “forbidden love” and always having some man to cheat on or sneak around, so I wanted to write a love story that focused entirely on the romance between two women in love.
Queer stories about real-life experiences like coming out, discrimination, self-discovery, etc. are extremely important and often very beautiful. But sometimes the world needs a queer romance that has none of that; that desire fueled most of the fire in the story’s creation.
When will there be a Map of Balarand?
Listen, I got an Inkarnate subscription, but it’s surprisingly hard to make good maps! I’ll try to post a Balarand map (and Tsubasa map) someday…
I actually sketched out a map of both the continent and the city back when I was writing the story, to give myself a better sense of things. It’s the first time I’ve actually done that for a story before. Someday, I hope you can see it too.
How much money is Emi actually worth? And if possible, can I buy my own Emi somewhere?
Emi alone has a net worth of your yearly salary over sixty years.
You can also buy a plushie right this very instant! Right now on theHands Held in the Snow Kickstarter, you can get Emi plush for just $35 USD. Hurry before they run out.
How and to what extent have real-life cultures influenced the setting of the story?
The naming systems and languages were not based on any specific pattern and so resulted in a nice mix of random words. The culture is also seemingly a mishmash of whatever I thought would be interesting to through in this renaissance-esque fantasy world.
While the situation between Elince, Dannark, and Doros was not based on any specific historical events, I am a student of history and am fascinated by the way that complicated geopolitics affect everyday life for the citizens living in those places.
I’m especially interested, for example, in the 1848 revolutions throughout Europe that ultimately failed at first but fueled the fires of liberalism later on. As an American who only learned of these revolutions in university, it came as a surprise to me that such spontaneous events could rise up and then be squashed so quickly. What did the average everyday people do in these years? What was life like under these short-lived democracies, and then again in the restored monarchies? Unfortunately, history doesn’t always give a clear picture of what these lives were like, not without doing plenty of primary source research at least.
The history of buffer states like Thailand or Poland has also been an interest of mine, and that topic plays a large part in Elince’s role in the story. You can make of that what you will, though.
Is the Ragnell family named after the crone or the sword?
Will you be coming back to this world for another story in the future?
Most likely, yes. 🙂 The details are mum for now. Sorry about that!
Why is the art so good?!
You’re gonna have to ask Mikayla Buan that question, because she really knocked it out of the park with the artwork. It really blew me away.
As I said before, thank you so much for reading Hands Held in the Snow. It means so much to me that you gave your time to go through it.
If you’re looking for other works to read after this, you can check out The Acorn Princess, an animated short film created by Mikayla Buan and others at Tough Nut Studios. For Thedude3445, you can also look to the web serial ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture, whose second season will continue shortly. And there will be another new Quinlan Circle story coming soon, from our resident cool person Joi Massat, one that you’ve just got to get ready for: Stacrash!! with Jeff.
I myself am starting work on my next romance story very soon. I don’t know when it’ll be done or when it’ll be ready to show to the world, but rest assured it’s going to be something special.
As for Emi and Beatrice? We can let them rest for a while. They earned it.